Alexa

Barcelona beats Athletic 4-1 in Spanish league

Barcelona beats Athletic 4-1 in Spanish league

Bojan Kric scored twice Saturday as an under-strength Barcelona beat Athletic Bilbao 4-1 to go top in the Spanish league, at least until Real Madrid plays.
Madrid needs to win at Racing Santander on Sunday to match Barcelona's 77 points ahead of next weekend's match between the title rivals at Santiago Bernabeu stadium.
Jeffren Suarez scored his first goal for Barcelona, side-footing in at the far post from Eric Abidal's pass in the 25th minute.
Krkic _ a late call-up to replace Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who injured his right leg in the warmup _ scored from a turnover in the 40th, and found the net again in the 59th for his fourth goal of the season.
Messi hit the target in the 67th for his first goal in four games and his 35th overall in all competitions before Athletic's Markel Susaeta pulled one back for the visitors in the 77th.
Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola rested several regulars ahead of Tuesday's Champions League quarterfinal against Arsenal, which is level at 2-2.
"We have to be prepared _ Tuesday is a final and then Madrid is too," goalkeeper Victor Valdes said. "They're all finals."
Gerard Pique and Carles Puyol, both suspended for Tuesday's game, played in defense alongside Abidal, who was making his return from a long-term leg injury. Xavi Hernandez was a replacement, eventually coming on in the second half.
Athletic took advantage of Barcelona's lack of combination early, but Markel Susaeta and Javi Martinez couldn't score from opportunities.
Messi set up Maxwell, playing in midfield for the first time, for a chance that wasn't taken before finding Abidal, whose pass to Suarez set up the speedy winger's goal.
Fernando Llorente enjoyed several chances for Athletic throughout, but Barcelona led 2-0 when Puyol jumped on an errant Athletic pass to feed Krkic, who beat goalkeeper Gorka Iraizoz on his near side from just inside the area.
But just like at Arsenal _ when the defending European champions blew a 2-0 lead _ Barcelona's focus dipped at times to allow Athletic chances through Gaizka Toquero, Martinez and Mikel San Jose.
Barcelona soon rediscovered its rhythm, and Krkic beat Iraizoz with a rising shot from the edge of the area.
Messi, who had a number of individual efforts repelled in the first half, broke through for his league-leading 26th goal by guiding substitute Pedro Rodriguez's cross through Iraizoz's legs.
Valdes made a number of saves after Susaeta had slid a shot under the goalkeeper to reduce the deficit. Valdes' recent good form has put him in the running for a spot in Spain's World Cup squad.
"At this moment, I'm dedicated to my club," Valdes said. "But it would be a dream if that call came."
Earlier, Zaragoza boosted its fight against relegation topflight football by beating Malaga 2-0.
Leandro Ponzio opened for Zaragoza after 45 minutes, collecting a short clearance and finding the top corner from outside the area.
Humberto Suazo scored his first goal at La Romareda stadium. The Chile striker receiving a headed pass and volleying past goalkeeper Gustavo Munua in the 76th.
Zaragoza moved to 32 points, one more than Malaga. Tenerife, in the last relegation spot, has 25 points and plays Sevilla later Saturday.
Third-place Valencia, the only team with a mathematical chance of catching the leaders, plays Osasuna on Sunday.
Also Sunday, it's: Valladolid vs. Villarreal; Sporting Gijon vs. Xerez; Getafe vs. Espanyol; Almeria vs. Mallorca and Atletico Madrid vs. Deportivo La Coruna.